Applied Evolutionary Anthropology

Darwinian Approaches to Contemporary World Issues

This workshop was held 14-16th Sept 2011 in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, UK.


Mhairi A. Gibson (University of Bristol) & David W. Lawson (University College London)


The Biosocial Society, the Galton Institute & the European Human Behavioural and Evolution Association

Invited speakers include:

  • Val Curtis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
  • Kate Hampshire (Department of Anthropology, University of Durham)
  • Ruth Mace (Department of Anthropology, University College London)

Workshop description

Evolutionary anthropology over the last fifty years has improved our understanding of how current environments (both physical and social) and legacies of past selection explain human behavioural diversity. Combining ethnographic, economic and demographic methods, these approaches have provided rich insights into the behaviours of contemporary peoples around the globe. A growing number of evolutionary anthropologists are now using Darwinian theory as a predictive tool to help the people with whom they work, particularly through the design and critique of public policy and international development programmes which seek to implement changes to environments and/or behaviour. The aim of this workshop is to bring together anthropologists and interdisciplinary scientists who are currently applying evolutionary approaches to contemporary world issues. Proposed themes include: 1) Changing reproductive and livelihood strategies, 2) Food insecurity and intrahousehold resource allocation, 3) Co-operative norms and habitat conservation, 4) The impact of development intervention and social policies 5) Implications of emerging environmental pressures (e.g. disease, population growth and climate change).

The meeting will bring together social science researchers working on these issues across a variety of disciplines and aims to form an integrative approach to the question of applied evolutionary anthropology. The workshop will be composed of paper presentations and discussion sessions aimed specifically at drawing out the applications and policy relevance of current research in the UK and beyond. We hope to attract around 30 participants working in diverse relevant disciplines, including anthropology, demography, economics and psychology.